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Resort tax bonding: What we know

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By Bay Stephens LOCAL EDITOR

BIG SKY – At the June 10 final appropriations meeting for the Big Sky Resort Area District resort tax collections, BSRAD’s board of directors allocated more than $8 million of collections and bonded $939,499 between the requests from Gallatin 911 and Big Sky Community Organization.

The power to bond was vested in BSRAD in 2013, but this is the first year it’s ever been used, so some of the details were unclear when the bonding was proposed and approved during the June 10 meeting. Now that the dust has settled, here’s what we know:

  • Overall, it will be a couple of months before the bonded funds are available for Gallatin 911 and BSCO. According to District Manager Daniel Bierschwale, both organizations will have the funds in time for their respective projects.
  • As per the resort tax ordinance for Big Sky’s district, the formal bonding approval process requires two instances of public notice, followed by the organizations filling out an application for bonded funds and finalized in a public hearing when the BSRAD board votes a majority in favor. This shouldn’t be an issue considering a majority already voted in approval of both bonds in the June 10 meeting.
  • The public hearing that approves the bonds would also be where the board decides how many years they will pay off the bonded funds. The debt service of the loans cannot last past 2032 when the Big Sky’s resort tax district is set to dissolve, though it can be renewed for a longer time prior to its dissolution.
  • The longer BSRAD decides to pay off the loans, the cheaper the yearly payments that come out of future resort tax collections. However, this will increase the monies paid overall, and vice versa.
  • Then BSRAD will go to a bank and take out two loans, one for BSCO and one for Gallatin 911. At that point, the final interest rates, paired with the loan terms the board decides on, will reveal how much funding will be subtracted yearly from future resort tax collections for debt service.

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In May, BSRAD became an associate member of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns and the Montana Infrastructure Coalition, both of which will stand to better inform the board’s decisions in the future.

The Colorado Association of Ski Towns was formed to bring together resort and tourism communities that face unique challenges when it comes to providing municipal services to residents and visitors, according to its website. Along with members such as Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Denver, associate members include Moab, Utah, Jackson, Wyoming and several Colorado counties.

“We joined to learn from more mature Colorado ski towns how to make the best decisions for Big Sky,” Bierschwale said.

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition also provides a way for BSRAD to remain abreast of the statewide infrastructure conversations, which are relevant locally considering the number of infrastructure projects the organization funds.

“Similar to the Logan Simpson [Strategic Visioning process], we are trying to be more informed to make the better informed decisions with the highest level of impact for the community,” Bierschwale added.

At the July 10 BSRAD board meeting, a months-long process of ordinance revision will kick off, the end goal being increased clarity for businesses that collect resort tax on what is taxable and how to do so, as well as for applicants who seek resort tax funding.

The district is also looking to hire an operations manager and an administrative assistant.

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